104: One License To Rule Them All

"'I think this is something that happens with a lot of license properties,' says Jeffrey Steefel, Executive Producer at Turbine, creators of The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (LOTRO), 'thinking that [once you have a license,] somehow the majority of the important job is done. You just have to wrap the game around it and you'll be there.'
"LOTRO is anything but a wrap job."

One License To Rule Them All

What is the point of this article?

If LOTRO is supposed to be "anything but a wrap job", then why is it so crappy? The game plays like a total conversion mod of Warcraft. Virtually every aspect of the game is informed by previous MMO convention, and the game is BORING.

Romothecus:
If LOTRO is supposed to be "anything but a wrap job", then why is it so crappy? The game plays like a total conversion mod of Warcraft.

What did you expect Turbine to do - ignore all the good things about MMOs - many of which come from WoW - chuck it out the window and ruin a license with a crappy game? Sony has already done that with Star Wars Galaxies.

You may find it boring, and good for you! But can you tone down your WoW fanboyism? The WoW forums exist for that kind of stuff.

Lots of other people are interested in LOTRO, MMOs, and the effect IP has on gaming.

That's why this article was written.

Romothecus:
If LOTRO is supposed to be "anything but a wrap job", then why is it so crappy? The game plays like a total conversion mod of Warcraft. Virtually every aspect of the game is informed by previous MMO convention, and the game is BORING.

I disagree - LOTRO is the product of rather typical gameplay evolution within a genre. It takes the conventions of MMORPGs and tweaks them, adding new things along the way. These conventions far predate WoW, which did exactly the same thing during their development process.

More importantly, and more relevant to the topic, LOTRO is also very true to the world created by J.R.R. Tolkien and a good game in its own right - really, a perfect example of games based on licensed properties. When dealing with a license of this magnitude - the license of this magnitude, in my opinion - that's a pretty large feat, and why the article belongs in this issue.

I also find it interesting in this case that Turbine has, essentially, been given a license to 'fill in the gaps' in Tolkien's work. The licensing for LOTR has been notoriously known for being very restrictive, so that's a remarkable freedom.

Romothecus:
What is the point of this article?

To get me chicks!

Kwip:

Romothecus:
What is the point of this article?

To get me chicks!

Has it worked?

Well, not really... Although I did get onto Tom Chick's site, so does that count?

Kwip:
Well, not really... Although I did get onto Tom Chick's site, so does that count?

It beats being put on Jack Chick's site.

Nice to have interviewed someone on the dev team, but this doesn't shed much light on the details of how a license is adapted to a game, except that you should get approval and pay attention to the details. How did Turbine get the license? How did they deal with problems like reinterpreting Angmar? What did they do wrong (but learn from)? How did they do it right?

The article is full of loose ends - "Although LOTR focuses primarily on the Fellowship and their part in the War of the Ring, there are numerous smaller stories going on. The trick lies making these smaller stories feel important." - Okay, how do they do that?

Also, according to Williams' blog, he's never even played LOTRO - his machine can't run it. So why did he write this article?

turkmenistan:
Nice to have interviewed someone on the dev team, but this doesn't shed much light on the details of how a license is adapted to a game, except that you should get approval and pay attention to the details. How did Turbine get the license?

I wish I could say. They aren't allowed to go into any details of the arrangement; apparently that's part of the deal itself. I did ask, though.

turkmenistan:
How did they deal with problems like reinterpreting Angmar? What did they do wrong (but learn from)? How did they do it right? ...

Yes, I definitely didn't go into enough detail here. I had intentions of going much more into the gritty details of the creation process, but I didn't do a good enough job interviewing the Turbies to really get a good grasp of that. They were more in the PR mode to talk about the end-result product and not the nitty gritty of getting to that end product. My interview skills definitely need improvement.

turkmenistan:
Also, according to Williams' blog, he's never even played LOTRO - his machine can't run it. So why did he write this article?

Actually, what I said in my blog is "I can't really run the game in any sort of high-end resolution." I played in beta and followed the game development closely (and, since I bought the CE, the hobbit Kwip probably still exists).

And really, the article isn't about the *game* specifically as much as it is about the *process* of adapting the license to a game (or at least, that's what it was supposed to be about). I'll readily admit I didn't do as good a job writing as I wanted, but that's why I wrote it.

"Props" to Kwip for taking his critics with such poise. Well Done!

I personally enjoyed this article, I too would love to find out more of the nitty gritty, but I don't feel he deserves quite the harsh tone that seems to have been taken. I enjoy considering how I personally would confront the challenges presented by reinterpreting a license to a different format just as much as I would reading how someone else did.

Hearing the right questions is just as interesting as the answers to me. Thanks for your effort Kwip, keep on contributing, your interviewing skills can only get better, and writing a story isn't as easy as some seem to believe :)

Kwip, those are good points. I'm sorry actually, I must have been in a dick mood when I wrote that post. It was a well-written article and it's not like these guys give up their deepest, darkest secrets to anyone who asks - it's pretty easy for them to keep saying "Look! This is shiny! Look how damn shiny this is!" until you run out of time.

Also, nice work on the AC 1 piece last week.

Romothecus:
What is the point of this article?

If LOTRO is supposed to be "anything but a wrap job", then why is it so crappy? The game plays like a total conversion mod of Warcraft. Virtually every aspect of the game is informed by previous MMO convention, and the game is BORING.

Firstly, saying the game is 'crappy' and 'boring' is not an argument. These words are just labels and labels have to be backed up by arguments if they are to appear serious.

Secondly, so what if the game plays like Warcraft? Warcraft is a great game. But Warcraft never appealed to me because the graphics seem too cheesy and kinda neon and the setting (which is based on another computer game company's knock-off of LotR) is just not my cup of tea. So when LotRO came along and gave me a game based on the actual LotR books, with nice realistic graphics AND the playability of WoW I got on board straight away.

Thirdly, so what if the game follows tried and tested formats. At least Turbine took all the stuff that worked for other games and refined it so that it works as well as possible with the LotR setting. Innovation might seem like a good idea, but often companies that try to be too innovative give us games like Star Wars Galaxies and Auto Assault.

After seeing LotRO, now I know why people like WoW so much. What I don't understand is why all the WoW fans are so dismissive of it. Surely imitation is the best form of flattery.

Anyway, far from being boring, LotRO is the best MMOG I've ever played - and I've played many MMOGs, from SWG, Lineage II and City of Heroes/Villains to Second Life, Everquest II and EVE online.

turkmenistan:
Kwip, those are good points. I'm sorry actually, I must have been in a dick mood when I wrote that post.

No worries at all, mate. Compared to the self-criticism that runs through my brain, that was NOTHING! ;) I actually didn't even read it as that dickish, I thought you actually raised very good points, which is why I tried to give as honest and non-snarky an answer as possible. The Turbies were extremely cooperative, I just had trouble nailing down some of the (what I think would have been) more interesting aspects of the development process. Ooooo, for that time machine!

And thanks for the kinds words, all! ;)

Virgil:

I also find it interesting in this case that Turbine has, essentially, been given a license to 'fill in the gaps' in Tolkien's work. The licensing for LOTR has been notoriously known for being very restrictive, so that's a remarkable freedom.

Wait. They made a Lord of the Rings MMO?!?!

Bongo Bill:

Kwip:
Well, not really... Although I did get onto Tom Chick's site, so does that count?

It beats being put on Jack Chick's site.

I hate that guy.

wtf?

Romothecus:
What is the point of this article?

If LOTRO is supposed to be "anything but a wrap job", then why is it so crappy? The game plays like a total conversion mod of Warcraft. Virtually every aspect of the game is informed by previous MMO convention, and the game is BORING.

WTF planet are u living on ... lotro is noting like wow in any any way other than a computer to play ...much better game i left wow for good now have 5 lifetime accounts of lotro :)

Kwip:

Romothecus:
What is the point of this article?

To get me chicks!

I'm sooo hooked on you right now

 

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